Neurodegeneration can be defined as progressive cell damage to nervous system cells, and more specifically to neurons, which involves morphologic alterations and progressive loss of function until cell death. Glaucoma exhibits many aspects of neurodegenerative disease. This review examines the pathogenesis of glaucoma, comparing it with that of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD), highlighting their common features. Indeed, in all three diseases there are not only the same types of pathogenic events, but also similarities of temporal cadences that determine neuronal damage. All three age-related illnesses have oxidative damage and mitochondrial dysfunction as the first pathogenic steps. The consequence of these alterations is the death of visual neurons in glaucoma, cognitive neurons in AD and regulatory motor neurons (substantia nigra) in PD. The study of these common pathogenic events (oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, protein degradation, apoptosis and autophagy) leads us to consider common therapeutic strategies for the treatment and prevention of these diseases. Also, examination of the genetic aspects of the pathways involved in neurodegenerative processes plays a key role in shedding light on the details of pathogenesis and can suggest new treatments. This review discusses the common molecular aspects involved in these three oxidative-stress and age-related diseases.
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